SKOWHEGAN — Nearly three months after Jeff and Pam Powers purchased the four-story Solon Manufacturing Co. building, the couple is receiving a $50,000 downtown tax increment financing grant to continue to develop the property.

The couple was awarded the grant at Tuesday evening’s regular selectmen’s meeting. The recommendation submitted by the TIF committee says that the decision to grant the money, which was unanimous among the seven members, will help reroute sewer lines, repair the roof, secure the windows and remove an old steam boiler.

“This is a very enthusiastic adventure by any means,” Chairman Paul York said at Tuesday evening’s board of selectmen meeting.

Jeff and Pam Powers of Bigelow Brewing are pictured Nov. 14, 2019, between the former Solon Manufacturing building at 7 Island Ave. in Skowhegan, right, and the Kennebec River, left. Morning Sentinel file photo by Rich Abrahamson

Jeff and Pam Powers, owners of Bigelow Brewing at 473 Bigelow Hill Road, purchased the property at 7 Island Ave. on Nov. 8, 2019. Pam Powers said Wednesday that since they have occupied the building, they have repaired a hole in the roof, secured all of the windows in the building that were falling out and taken out the electric wiring and replaced it with temporary infrastructure.

“This is a huge project,” Pam Powers said. “We’re in contact with everyone all of the time.”

Just last week, the building had lights on for the first time in 15 years, sparking interest from the local community.

“Over 1,100 people ‘liked’ our Facebook post (about the lights), which really shows that it really is a community project and something that is going to be good for the whole town,” Pam Powers said.

“It was very exciting to receive (the downtown TIF grant),” she said. “Many of the things on the TIF were things that we knew about before we bought the building.”

She said that right now, they are working to add the building to the National Register of Historic Places, which will allow them opportunities to apply for tax credits.

The building was built in 1922 and originally housed Maine Spinning Co., according to information provided by Somerset Economic Development Corp.

It was later acquired by Solon Manufacturing, which operated until 2006. The building has changed hands several times but has remained mostly vacant since then, though Chapter 11 occupied the space for a brief time beginning in 2014.

Bigelow Brewing is expanding their production facility into the first floor of 7 Island Ave. in Skowhegan, pictured here on Nov. 14, 2019. Morning Sentinel file photo by Rich Abrahamson Buy this Photo

“The building has not lived up to its potential in a long time,” Christian Savage, executive director of Somerset Economic Development, told the Morning Sentinel in November. “It’s great to see it being very impactful, not just for Bigelow’s production and business, but for everyone in Skowhegan.”

The Powers recently selected an architect to take on the project after interviewing six potential candidates. They are not releasing the name until they have notified all of the candidates.

“We just secured our architect,” Pam Powers said. “It took quite a while. Our plan is to use as many local contractors as we can for this project.”

She said that the main objective right now is to get the production facility moved from the spot on Bigelow Hill Road to the downtown space. That will allow the couple to expand their food and entertainment space on Bigelow Hill Road. Construction then will be done around the production facility, she said.

Moving the production space will not make any difference to traffic patterns. As the project continues to develop however, traffic studies may need to be done, but the couple says it is too early to discuss.

Though there are a lot of moving parts during the process, the couple assures customers that moving production to the Island Avenue location will have positive results for their spot on Bigelow Hill Road.

“This is a project that will take a year and a half to two (years), or even longer, to finish. Having the production facility in downtown will help us quadruple our production of beer and to also get our supplies all year long,” Pam Powers said.

The couple plans to turn the first floor of the 80,000-square-foot building into a production facility, where they will have a 15-barrel brew house, seating and a band area.

The second and third floors of the building will be converted into residential living spaces. The fourth floor of the building will be converted into restaurants, a music venue and a green rooftop deck. The basement of the building will be used for residential parking.

Town Manager Christine Almand said that seeing the mill repurposed has positive effects on the community.

“We’ve seen many mills being repurposed throughout the state, and we are super excited about seeing the one right in the heart of our town having a project like this going forward,” Almand said Wednesday. “It will definitely feed into the future and what we want to see with the Run of the River and all of our efforts.”

“The town is equally excited about having the project done,” Pam Powers said. “We were blown away that they were willing to do (the TIF grant). It’s very heartwarming to see the support that the community has behind this project. We are thankful. We love this community. Though we are a little frightened, we are definitely excited.”

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